Data breach. Identity theft. Cybersecurity. Digital security. Password protection. Hacking. Malware.
Are you as sick as I am? Seriously, it makes me want to go back to the 70’s… ok, 80’s - before these words and phrases were something I needed to know. With all of the technology in the last 20 years our lives have become so much more complex. And the danger that someone can steal your Social Security number and cause you more financial grief than you ever dreamed is a real threat in today’s world. So what should you do?
The latest data breach at Equifax… not to mention the ones at Target, Yahoo and several other companies, have us all asking what or where do we go from here? Equifax themselves advised that putting a security freeze on your credit was the best thing to do to protect yourself. What a pain! There are three main credit bureaus that companies use to verify your credit score when you apply for a loan or credit card. And of course, if you freeze your credit, at some point you will need to “unfreeze” it to apply for any type of credit in the future. And there can be a small charge ($10 or less per agency) to freeze and unfreeze. (hmm… sounds like they are making money on this beach too??)
Given the sheer number of recent data breaches, it’s pretty likely that your personal information, such as, name, birthdate, Social Security number, etc. have already been exposed. All it takes is one hacker to use your data to steal your identity and open new credit accounts without your knowledge. So… YES, the BEST way to protect yourself is to freeze your credit with the three agencies. It does take a little time to do it, but in the long run you will feel more secure when your personal information is more secure.
There is a difference between “freezing” your credit and “monitoring” your credit. A freeze offers greater protection, because it is proactive, not re-active. If you pay a company to “monitor” your credit they will only alert you to potential fraud AFTER the fact and you will still have to jump through hoops to get the account closed and your file corrected. A “freeze” should stop the fraudulent account from being opened in the first place.
Freezing your credit will give you peace of mind the next time you hear of a new data breach.
To set up a credit freeze, you must contact each of the credit agencies individually. It can be done online or over the phone. You will be asked some questions to confirm your identity but it should only take a few minutes.
Here are the credit agencies:
*Equifax: 866-349-5191/ www.freeze.equifax.com
*Experian: 888-397-3742/ www.experian.com/freeze
*TransUnion: 888-909-8872/ www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze
And always keep an eye on your credit and bank accounts to be on the safe side. By law, consumers are allowed one free credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies every year. Be sure to take advantage of this to and regularly check your credit reports for any discrepancies.
As always, if you have questions we are here to help.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.